When you’re having problems with someone you’re in a serious relationship with, advice from well-meaning friends and family who don’t know the particulars of your situation sometimes aren’t as helpful as you’d like them to be. You might be willing to try anything to strengthen a relationship that means the world to you, but if all you’re hearing is Say I love you more and Don’t go to bed angry you won’t have a lot to go on.
If you’re looking for new relationship advice you can use every day, check out these seven surprising ways you can strengthen your relationship.
1. Fold laundry with each other.
According to Mary Sambrosky, founder of Be Plus One, “Working side by side on a mundane task creates a connection and symbiotic feeling” because it pushes you to function as a team. Sambrosky suggests that couples regularly fold laundry together to achieve that symbiotic feeling and couples who follow this advice typically report back to her that they even forward to that time.
You don’t necessarily have to fold laundry, but pick a household chore that you can work on together. Maybe one of you can wash the dishes while the other one dries, or you can both spend time pulling weeds in the garden. Whatever the task, focus on accomplishing it together.
2. Send each other calendar invites.
People who are comfortable in their relationships sometimes fall into the trap of assuming that their partners will always agree to spending time together, no matter what. Have you ever made a plan for you and your loved one to attend a party, then told your partner about it after the fact?
Relationship expert Wendy Newman advises against making those assumptions. Instead, she suggests sharing online calendars with each other and sending invites for any activity you plan, allowing the other person to accept or decline the request. “When it comes down to it,” Newman explains, “everything we do for each other is better when it’s a choice, and we’re giving our time and energy freely.”
3. Go to bed at the same time.
Relationship therapist Kimberly Hershenson stresses the importance of maintaining physical and emotional intimacy with your partner, “which is often difficult when kids need to be fed, we are tired from working all day, and the house needs to be put in order.”
Hershenson suggests that couples should hit the hay together at least one night a week. Doing so will provide you with extra time to cuddle and talk about each other’s days.
4. Get more sleep.
Sleep expert Sarah Brown of Sleep Train says that, “People who don’t get enough sleep can sometimes see their relationships suffer due to increased irritability.” She points out that you also tend to appear less attractive to others when you are running on insufficient sleep, and you may each find yourselves less interested in physical intimacy as a result.
Brown encourages couples to support each other in healthy sleep habits by avoiding screens for the hour before bedtime, quitting the afternoon cup of coffee, and maintaining a somewhat regular bedtime. (Ideally at the same time, as Hershenson suggested).
5. Be your partner’s gym buddy.
Celebrity trainer and nutritionist Harley Pasternak writes that, “couples that do physical activities or challenges together are more satisfied in their relationship.” Not only does working out together keep you both motivated, but over time the exercise will likely help you both feel better about your health and appearances, and you may find yourselves even more attracted to each other.
Wearable fitness tech is one great way to connect with your partner even if you can’t align your schedules to visit the gym together. You can engage in some healthy competition as well as stay accountable to each other for your individual goals.
6. Ditch your phones.
Shamyra Howard, relationship expert and owner of Conquest Counseling, recommends that couples turn off their cell phones at a designated time every day. “Cell phones keep us connected in so many ways,” she says, “but can keep us disconnected in our relationships.” Howard explains that establishing a cell phone curfew as a couple can help remind both partners to tune in to each other while tuning out the rest of the world.
Rather than scrolling through Facebook or liking your friends’ photos on Instagram, put your phones away for an hour and find an activity conducive to conversation or bonding. You might play a board game, go for a walk, or just chat—but the important thing is that you are substituting the time on your phones with time together.
7. Play video games together.
The keyword here is together. A study by researchers at Brigham Young University found “when husbands are heavy gamers, it clearly has a negative impact on their marriages”—but when both partners played equally, and even interacted together in the virtual world, a greater percentage reported higher marital satisfaction.
Tread carefully if you want to go this route, because the study does point out that too much competition between partners can cause friction. Researchers also confirm that going to bed at different times might lead to diminished intimacy in a relationship, as Hershenson suggests—so try not to let the gaming get between you.
No relationship is perfect or without disagreements, but as you start to engage more with your partner and grow more deliberate in the way you spend time together, you will likely see a renewed connection.